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Participation in peak power program declines

By John O’Connell

Capital Press

The number of farmers participating in Idaho Power's new Peak Irrigation Rewards program is down about 9 percent, but the total amount of power enrolled is roughly the same, according to company officials.

BOISE, Idaho — Enrollment is down by about 9 percent in a revised Idaho Power program that pays irrigators to shut off pumps during peak hours of power usage, according to officials with the utility.

The utility suspended Irrigation Peak Rewards prior to last season for further evaluation after concluding its system’s capacity was more than adequate to meet peak demand without the program.

Dennis Merrick, Idaho Power’s irrigation programs specialist, said 430 customers have enrolled in the program, which runs from mid-June through mid-August. He said the total amount of power enrolled, at just over 300 megawatts, remains about the same as with the previous program.

Merrick explained the program didn’t shut off any irrigators during either 2011 or 2012, and the new program includes a guarantee that irrigators will be shut off at least three times per season. Idaho Power has the authority to shut off participants for up to 4 hours per day, 15 hours per week and 60 hours per season, when load forecasters predict peak power usage. The new program also slightly reduces payments per kilowatt hour and removes a requirement that irrigators be given a day of advanced notice prior to curtailments.

Merrick said he was pleasantly surprised by the high level of participation, given the changes to the program.

“We figured there would be some attrition with the new rules of the program just because of the no-notification potential, slightly reduced incentives and guaranteed three shut-off events,” Merrick said.

Merrick said the new program will no longer offer devices that shut off irrigation on prescheduled intervals, which some customers preferred to “eliminate the guess work.” He said 60 customers from that program have been issued equipment to switch to the standard program.

Dennis Ellison, an Idaho Power agricultural representative, said the company should have more than enough power capacity to meet its loads this season, but re-establishing the program now will ensure the infrastructure is in place when peak demand reductions are expected to become more critical in 2016.



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